Decluttering + What I Do with Products I Don't Love

Something I've become really aware of since I started blogging is the tendency to accumulate a lot of products.  I love trying new things, but I don't like waste and one person can only get through so much stuff!  I've been on a decluttering kick the last several weeks and I've also gotten into watching Use It Up and Project Pan videos on Youtube, both of which have been great encouragement to use up products that have been languishing in my cupboards.    If you aren't familiar with these, basically people select specific products that they want to use up within a certain time frame.  It's a great way to work through products without wasting them!

I find it really satisfying to completely use products up (which you've probably already figured out from my empties posts) and I love the idea of streamlining your collection, but at the same time, some products are a struggle.  No one is going to like every single thing they try, and it's always the ones that I'm not so crazy about that are most challenging to finish.  I don't want to waste things, but at the same time, I don't want to be constantly working to finish products I don't like and neglecting the ones I really do enjoy in the process.  

With that in mind, these are the questions I ask myself when deciding what to do with those products I don't especially like:
  • How much do I dislike the product?  If it's something I'm pretty neutral about, that's one thing, but if I legitimately hate every minute of using a product, maybe it's not something I need to force myself to use.  
  • How long will it take to use up?  If I can use something up in a short time, I'll usually push through, but if I know it's going to last 6+ months, that's when I'm more likely to call it a day.  
  • Will products I genuinely like go to waste while I use this?  There's no sense wasting products you love just to get your use out of a product you don't even really like.
  • Does it have a negative impact on my skin/hair/appearance?  Whether it's skincare that breaks me out, hair products that don't work for my hair, or makeup that just doesn't look good, I've realized that some things just aren't worth it!  
  • Can I repurpose the product for something other than its original use?  Maybe something didn't work for its intended purpose, but is there some other way I can use it?  Face products on the body and conditioner as shaving cream are my most commonly repurposed items.
  • How much did it cost?  This one only goes so far as I don't want to waste inexpensive items either, but there's no question that it's easier for me to accept defeat on a $2 item than a $50 one.  
  • Is there someone I can pass it on to?  I'd much rather someone else enjoy the product than me just suffer through it for the sake of using it up.
  • Is it expired?  Pretty much a no-brainer.  I'm not always a stickler for exact expiry dates, but if I already don't like the product, I'm not going to use it after it's expired.  On the flip side, if something is expiring soon, that often pushes me to use it up more quickly before the expiry.
How about some specific product examples?

Products I'm Working to Use Up:

Boo Bamboo Line Lifting Face Cream*
I actually think this is a great face cream, but I don't like the scent.  Boo Bamboo uses a naturally derived fragrance, but to my nose it smells very similar to a lot of mainstream skincare (and vaguely synthetic) and it's just not a scent I enjoy close to my nose.  I've been using it on my body, however, and I don't notice the smell nearly as much.

Pollen & Wax Apollo Cleanser
This cleanser has since been reformulated to have a smoother texture, but the one I have is a little odd.  On the one hand, it's a seemingly gentle cream cleanser, but at the same time, it feels quite harsh on my face.  It has sandy particles that are way too abrasive for my skin on a daily basis and while I tried using it as more of an exfoliant, once or twice a week, I consistently noticed my skin didn't look as good on the days I used it, so I stopped using it that way as well.  I'm going to give it one last try on my body, and hopefully that'll be the end of it.

Balance Me Wonder Eye Cream
I don't really dislike this eye cream, but it doesn't do a lot for me beyond just moisturizing.  I do want to get my use out of it, but I don't think I'll be sorry to see it run out.

Weleda Skin Food
I really like Skin Food, but I only use it in small amounts and with the rate I go through it, I definitely didn't need to buy this big tube, which sadly expires in April.  I'm not going to toss it at midnight on April 30 or anything, but I want to make a real effort to get through it at least within a couple months of the expiry. 

Schmidt's Lavender Sage Deodorant
I mixed and modified my Schmidt's and while it no longer irritates my underarms, it's still not my favorite deodorant.  I've got this pot and half of another, but I'm determined to work through them.

Carina Daily Moisturizing Shampoo
This smells good (like pineapples!) but it did nothing for my hair.  I've been using it to wash my makeup brushes for the last several months, and it actually works great for this purpose.  

Products I'm Saying Farewell To:

ELF Metallic Purple Mineral Eye Liner
My problem with this is twofold: the formula is way too hard and the color is unexceptional.  It's a plummy-brown with some purple shimmer on top, but once the shimmer falls off (within the first half hour or so), it's just another brown liner and not worth the effort of struggling with such a hard pencil.

Acure Leave-In Conditioner
I love Acure and I think this product works well, but I can't stand how it smells.  I've made an effort to use it many, many times, but I smell it in my hair every time I turn my head and it just drives me crazy.  I have about half left, but I also noticed it expired a few months ago, so it's got to go.

The Bottom Line
Like basically everything, I think it comes down to balance.  I don't know of anywhere local to me that accepts donations of lightly used products - only brand new ones - so if I don't have someone to pass a product on to, I do really try to finish most things myself.  That said, I've also come to realize that it's okay to get rid of the occasional product that just doesn't work for you.  I feel a little guilty throwing things out, but if it's just going to sit in my makeup drawers unused - like the ELF liner - or make me sick to smell it - like the Acure Leave-in - what am I really accomplishing by hanging on to it?

I'd love to know where you guys fall on this one!  Are you someone who has to use every single thing up, or are you okay getting rid of products that you don't like or can't make work for you?

* Press sample
Contains affiliate links

Mid-Winter Favorites

I've never been very consistent about writing favorites posts, but I really want to do better this year.  I'm not going to promise weekly or even monthly favorites, but I hope to do a favorites post at least every two or three months.   Starting today!  Keep reading for a look at some of the things I'm currently loving...

Andalou Naturals Brightening All-in-One Beauty Balm
I included Andalou's BB Cream in a wishlist post when it first launched, but when reviews and swatch photos started cropping up, I mentally scratched it off for being way too dark and orange for my fair skin.  When I got my hands on it two years later in a goodie bag from a Goodness Me! blogger event, I almost passed it on unopened, but thankfully my curiosity got the better of me.

As you can see, the color is legitimately pretty orange and not remotely close to my skin tone.  (Mere technicalities!)  I'm not sure how, but a thin layer somehow manages to blend in and actually work on my ultra pale, middle-of-winter skin.  I end up looking tanned - but not orange - with super glowy, fresh skin.  Coverage is very minimal, although it does even out some discoloration.  The finish is also a little dewier than I prefer, so I like to lightly dust over it with a powder, which takes down the dewiness, adds a little extra coverage, and helps the color look a little more seamless and natural.  

The other incredible thing about this product is its effect on pores.  Conventional makeup usually relies on silicones to manufacture a barrier that gives the appearance of poreless skin, but somehow, this silicone-free option also manages to minimize the look of pores and lends them a similar filled in appearance.  AND, it's not just a temporary, makeup thing - my naked pores actually look smaller and more refined after a few days of using this product.  When I stop using it, they gradually go back to normal, and then when I use it again, they become noticeably smaller within a few days.  Pretty impressive!

Crazy Rumors Plum & Peppermint Lip Balm
I like the formula of Crazy Rumors lip balms, but the individual flavors are very hit or miss for me.  Plum & Peppermint is a total hit!  It's super fruity and brings back memories of BonneBell Lip Smackers, although it doesn't smell fake the way those do.  To my nose, there's a hint of peppermint, but the predominant scent is definitely the plum.  I've been alternating between this and the Rocky Mountain lip balm I wrote about earlier this week, and my lips have stayed super soft and protected despite how cold it's been.  

Meow Meow Tweet Lavender Deodorant Cream
You may recall my attempt to make Schmidt's deodorant work for me, and while this time playing kitchen chemist did eliminate the burning and rashes, I ended up with twice as much of a deodorant that I still don't crazy love.  I've been putting off buying any new deodorant until I work through all that, but when Meow Meow Tweet's Lavender Deodorant Cream came in the December Petit Vour box, I decided it was okay to take a break from my never-ending Schmidt's to try it out.  The formula is very creamy but dry on your skin, which I love.  I find most cream deodorants tend to be either hard or oily, so I really appreciate how soft the Meow Meow Tweet Formula is without feeling greasy on the skin or leaving oil stains on your clothes.  The company's Baking Soda Free deodorant has gotten a lot of love recently, so I think that will be my next purchase (months down the road when I finish the Schmidt's!) but the baking soda in this original formula also hasn't caused any irritation for me.  

Young Living Oregano Essential Oil
I've blogged about my difficulties getting rid of build up on my scalp and reviewed several clarifying hair products over the years, but when I came across this blog post on It's An Itchy Little World, it hit me that maybe what was going on wasn't product build up, but rather a very minor case of seborrheic dermatitis.  Jennifer's post has a lot more information, but in very short summary, seborrheic dermatitis is a yeast overgrowth in the body that causes increased oil production.  I've successfully managed my scalp by using a homemade Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse a couple times per month, but once this new information presented itself, I wanted to try to eliminate the cause - systemic yeast overgrowth - as opposed just treating the symptom.  

I was already taking probiotics and I decided to incorporate oregano essential oil in addition.  Oregano is most well-known for immune-boosting, but it's also has anti-fungal properties that are effective on yeast and candida.  I started out with 5 drops of oregano in a veggie capsule twice daily, but gradually increased the dose to 12 drops twice daily.  A lot of the oregano oils you buy are diluted, but Young Living's is not, so I diluted it myself with olive oil, since straight oregano can burn your stomach.  The results have actually been pretty amazing!  I noticed within the first couple days that my skin looked better, and that's only gotten more true as time has gone on.  It's taken longer to see results on my scalp and I've just recently started to notice a real difference after 2-3 months of taking the oregano.

I've also read that seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp is quite similar to cradle cap, and when I was talking about this with my mom, she mentioned that I was born with a bad case of cradle cap.  It's fascinating how these kinds of things connect!  Also interesting is how this experience has made me more aware of other factors that were affecting my scalp.  I eat a very clean diet for the most part, but during these three months, there was a night I had Swiss Chalet and another time I went out for cheap thai food and both times I noticed a flare up on my scalp by the next day, which I'm attributing to these more processed, sugary foods that were probably also full of chemicals and preservatives.  

I'm not a medical professional or attempting to give any sort of medical advice, just sharing what has worked for me.  Before purchasing any oregano oil to take internally, please make sure you're buying a high quality oil by reading my 3 Things You Should Know Before Buying Essential Oils.  

BareMinerals The Perfect Storm Ready Eyeshadow 2.0
BareMinerals is what I consider a somewhat natural brand, but I feel comfortable with the ingredients in most of their powder products.  I placed a Sephora order a few weeks ago - my first Sephora purchase in nearly three years according to their records - and got this eye shadow duo as a free gift with purchase.  I've wanted to try the Ready Eyeshadows for a while, and while I wasn't super excited about the colors in the duo to start with, but I ended up loving both of them!  Cumulus is a satin white that sheers out into the perfect brow bone highlight and Tempest is a great taupey grey that works beautifully in the crease with virtually any eye look.  The duo isn't something I see myself using much by itself, but both shades are incredibly useful and I'm very happy to have them.  The shadows are soft, smooth and pigmented and I'm impressed all around.  

I can't find The Perfect Storm duo for sale anywhere, but as of today, you can still get it free with a $30 Sephora order and the code "READY" 

What have you been loving lately?

Contains affiliate links.

Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Vanilla Candy Cane Mini Tray

Mid-February isn't too late to write about holiday gift sets, is it?  I actually got this set on my birthday, at the end of January, without any plans to blog about it, but it ended up being too lovely not to.  Rocky Mountain Soap Co. is a Canadian bath and body company founded on the principle that nature provides everything we need for beautiful and healthy skin.  The company believes that body care should be beneficial to our health and psychological well-being and has even launched an entire Toxin-Free Movement to help spread information about ingredients and how to shop clean.

I've checked out Rocky Mountain Soap's website numerous times in the past and even tweeted with them on Twitter, but with stores only in the Western provinces, my birthday was the first time I came across their products in person.  I wasn't sure where to start until I spotted a lone Vanilla Candy Cane Mini Tray in the store's sale section.  Vanilla and mint scents are some of my favorites, so finding this - and on sale to boot - made it an easy decision.  The Mini Tray came with mini sizes of the Vanilla Candy Cane Body Butter and Bar Soap and a full size Vanilla Candy Cane Lip Butter.  It also included a card redeemable for a free bar of soap in one of their stores, which I will certainly be hanging onto until I - or someone I know - can make it to one of the ten Rocky Mountain Soap stores in person.

Vanilla Candy Cane Bar Soap
I'm always excited to discover new palm-oil free soap options, so this was probably the item I was most eager to try in the kit.  It didn't disappoint.  The Vanilla Candy Cane scent is the mildest in the soap, and while I wouldn't object to it being a little stronger, it's still there and quite delicious.  The soap creates a good, rich lather that feels soft and non-drying on the skin and it's also lasted a good bit longer in my soap dish than expected, considering its compact size.  

Vanilla Candy Cane Body Butter
Solid body butters can be tricky, but Rocky Mountain Soap has really nailed the perfect lotion bar consistency here.  It's solid without being waxy, so it smoothes onto the skin easily without dragging or feeling sticky.  It's also not overly oily and sinks in beautifully.  My favorite thing to do with this has been to use it as a hand butter, since the tube packaging makes it so easy to smear on the backs of your hands and quickly rub in.  The product absorbs nicely, so you don't end up with greasy hands or needing to wait more than a minute before you can touch anything.  The Vanilla Candy Cane scent is a gorgeous mix of cool peppermint and sweet vanilla that I can smell on my skin for a few hours after application, and the body butter leaves anything it touches super soft and hydrated.  The smaller, mini size is also perfect for carrying around with you and using on the go.  

Vanilla Candy Cane Lip Butter
The lip butter feels very similar in consistency to the body butter and is beautifully rich and buttery.  I notice a slight peppermint tingle on my lips, but nothing over the top.  We've had -25° temperatures here the last several days and while admittedly I haven't been spending a lot of time outside, the lip butter has done a great job protecting my lips when I have ventured outdoors.  

The Bottom Line
I've been impressed with all three products, so I'm pretty confident this won't be my last experience with Rocky Mountain Soap.  The Vanilla Candy Cane scent - which is phenomenal - was a limited release for the holidays and isn't currently available, but all three of these products - and the Mini Trays - are sold year-round in other scents. With a large assortment of products and many varied scent choices, I sort of envision Rocky Mountain Soap Co. as a healthy alternative falling somewhere between Bath & Body Works and Lush.  I'd love to visit one of their stores one day, but in the meantime, I will content myself with their website, plus the products stocked at The Big Carrot here in Toronto.  

Sample Stash #15: Sensitive Skin Moisturizers

I've used face oils almost exclusively since discovering them, but when the cold weather hit this year, oils alone just weren't doing the trick.  My skin didn't feel dry, so it took me a while to clue in to the fact that my fine lines suddenly seeming more pronounced and a worse overall skin texture could both be signs of dehydrated skin.  It amazes me how much of a difference adding in a water-based moisturizer has made!  I'll have more on my full skincare routine soon, but for today's sample stash post, I want to focus on a few of the moisturizers I tested during this dry spell.  All are very gentle and formulated specifically for sensitive skin, but there are some notable differences between them as well.

Blissoma Pure Sensitive Skin Soothing Complex
I actually had two samples of this - one from a Petit Vour box and one that I received in a Foxy Mango order - so I was able to test this out for close to a month and get a good feel for it.  Blissoma products are always packed full of herbal goodness and this is no exception.  With shea butter, marshmallow root, plantain, self heal, heather, and lots more, Pure is an excellent product for soothing redness and irritated or inflamed skin and it's been a pleasure to use.  It's a thick, substantial moisturizer, but it melts into the skin beautifully and actually ends up feeling quite weightless.  The formula is unscented, but it does have a very herbal scent from the ingredients.  Definitely a product I could see buying in the future.  

Trilogy Very Gentle Moisturizing Cream
Trilogy's Very Gentle line is fragrance and essential oil free and the moisturizer is intended to soothe and protect the skin barrier while deeply hydrating and comforting the skin.  The cream instantly eliminated any redness on my face and I also noticed less redness over the course of the day.  It felt pretty rich - though not overly heavy - and did take a couple minutes to fully sink in.  I'm using one of Trilogy's other moisturizers now, but I might come back to this one in the future.

Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Beautiful Day Cream and Heavenly Night Cream
I'm not usually one for rose scents, but these ones - which were something of a sweet, candy-like rose - were surprisingly okay.  And, I liked the creams themselves too.  Both were soothing and quite hydrating, while also absorbing quickly.  I preferred the Day Cream over the Night, as I noticed a bit of a slimy coating when I wet my face in the mornings after using the Night Cream the night before.  I didn't have any adverse skin reaction in the few days the sample lasted, but I worry that whatever the coating element is might cause one with longer use.  The Day Cream was a little lighter in texture and didn't leave any kind of coating on the skin.

Pai Avocado & Jojoba Hydrating Day Cream
I always want to love Pai, but their products sometimes just don't do it for me.  I think this is one of the richer moisturizers in the line and it felt too heavy for my skin.  The jasmine scent - although light - wasn't my favorite either and didn't help to endear this product to me.  I'd be curious to try a different moisturizer from the line, but this one wasn't a hit.

Green Beaver Green Tea Facial Cream
Green Beaver is good for affordable, basic skincare and the Green Tea Facial Cream was no different.  There's nothing wrong with it - it's a decent unscented, lightweight moisturizer - but there are other moisturizers I like a lot more.  

Have you used any of these?  What do you look for in a moisturizer?

Contains affiliate links

A Definitive Look at Natural Eye Liner Pencils

In the process of weeding through and decluttering my makeup, I realized I've accumulated a fair few eyeliner pencils these last couple of years and - aside from a few brief mentions - I've never written about them.  I rarely used to wear eyeliner, but these days, it's pretty standard for days that I wear makeup.  Pencil is by far the quickest and easiest liner for me to use and it's what I reach for most often.  

Here's my opinions - good and bad - on the eight brands currently in my collection.  I've included some swatches at the end too, for anyone that might be interested in seeing how some of these colors stack up against one another.

The Top Picks

Pacifica Natural Eye Pencils
If I had to pick a number one favorite, this would be it.  The formula glides on effortlessly, both on the lid and in the waterline, and the three colors I've tried all have great color payoff.  Despite the marketing, I wouldn't consider these to be waterproof, but they do last all day on the lashline.  They also don't smear or bleed out of the waterline, although I usually only get 3-4 hours wear there before they start to fade.  Currently there are four neutral shades available, but I'm hoping for more fun colors in the future!  

Honeybee Gardens JobaColors Eye Liner
The JobaColor liners fall in the middle in terms of creamyness, but their gorgeous shades bump them up to my top two.  My two favorites are Blue Jeans, a bright teal blue and Smoking Gun, a beautiful silvered brown/shimmery taupe.  The one exception to the awesomeness of these pencils is Jet Set - the black - which I'm not crazy about.  I definitely think there are better black eyeliners, but I'd recommend the rest of the colors wholeheartedly. 

Middle of the Road

Benecos Natural Kajal Eyeliner
The formula on these is excellent.  They're creamy and apply very smoothly, but the actual colors - at least the two I have - tend to leave me feeling a bit let down.  Brown is a really warm brown with some almost orange tones, and Night Blue - which swatches as an amazing metallic navy - always ends up as more of a muddy grey/charcoal on my eyes.  There are a couple more colors I'm cautiously curious about, so I'll be sure to update this if/when I try more.

Earthlab Vegan Mineral Pencils
If you're looking for a liner that's easy to smudge out, Earthlab is a good choice.  I don't find Black to be the best true, deep black for lining the eyes, but it's excellent for smoking out as it still hangs onto a good amount of colour once blended.  

Gabriel Color
I only have one liner from Gabriel Color, in Black, which is another that I find to be more of a grey/charcoal than a true black.  The actual pencil is a little on the firmer side, but as long as you warm it up on your hand, it's fine to work with.  

Failed to Impress

ELF Mineral Eye Liner
As a retractable pencil sold for a mere $3, I was really excited to give the Mineral Eye Liners a try.  Unfortunately, the pencil is just way too hard and needs a lot of pressure to get any color payoff.  Metallic Purple was disappointing color-wise as well.  It's a plummy brown shade with a purple sheen, but the purple wears off super quickly, leaving you with just a rather ordinary brown.  

Beauty Without Cruelty Eye Defining Pencil*
I love how cool-toned Soft Brown is, but, again, the formula is just way too hard and leaves me feeling as though I'm scraping my eyelid raw whenever I use it. I will say, swatching this again today, the ashy tones and firmer texture reminded me more of a brow pencil than a liner, so if the color happens to be a match for you, it might work great for that purpose.

LUVU Beauty Eye Liner Pencils
The same qualities that I love so much about LUVU's lip pencils make their eye pencils some of my least favorites.  They're very solid and almost waxy, which results in very little color payoff on the eye, unless you're using a good amount of pressure.  I do like the shimmery White for highlighting the inner corner, but it's basically useless for lining the waterline or as a regular eyeliner.  

Blacks: (L to R) Luvu Beauty Black, Gabriel Color Black, Earthlab Black, Honeybee Gardens Jet Set, Pacifica Jet

Neutrals: (L to R) LUVU Beauty White, Pacifica Bare, Honeybee Gardens Brown Sugar, Benecos Brown, Honeybee Gardens Belgian Chocolate, Beauty Without Cruelty Soft Brown, Honeybee Gardens Smoking Gun

The Colors: (L to R) Honeybee Gardens Blue Jeans, Benecos Night Blue, ELF Metallic Purple

Have you used any of these?  What are your favorite eye liners?

* Press sample
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Beyond the Label: 3 Things You Should Know Before Buying Essential Oils

I've wanted to write a series of posts on essential oils for quite some time, but I've somehow never actually sat down and done it.  I don't have any formal training, but I grew up in a very essential oil-friendly household with two Certified Aromatherapists - my mom and older sister - and I also received some essential oil training while I was working at the health food store, so I have a pretty good knowledge base to draw from.

For this first post, I want to talk about a few things I think you should know before buying any essential oil.  There is currently no legal standard or governing body for essential oils, which means companies can basically bombard you with claims without ever needing to actually prove or back them up.  Similarly, laws - at a minimum, those in North America - do not require full ingredient disclosure on essential oil labels. 

You all know I love a bargain, but essential oils are one area where I think it's generally worth spending a little more.  Here's why -

1. Growing Conditions
The most basic thing to look for is organic oils.  Essential oils are a highly concentrated plant product, so if the plants being distilled are not organic, any essential oil produced will also contained a concentrated amount of whatever pesticides, herbicides or insecticides have been used on the plants.  

Also consider issues of sustainability - are the plants being grown with sustainable farming practices that protect the environment, public health, human communities and animal welfare?

2. Extraction Methods
There are numerous ways to extract essential oils, but basically you want to look for oils that are distilled at low temperatures, low pressures, and without chemical solvents.  Steam distillation is generally good, and much like with olive oil, essential oils from the first distillation are preferable to those from the second or third or "complete distillation," which refers to a blend of the three.  

Solvent extraction - the cheapest, quickest method and the one with the highest yield - is also very common, so if a company does not credit another method, it's very possible they are using solvents at some point in the distillation process.  

Those looking for vegetarian and vegan products should also keep an eye out for enfleurage distillation which can involve distilling oils in animal fat.  

3. Ingredient Transparency: Additives + Misleading Ingredients 
Obviously we are looking for pure oils, but with the lack of supervision and governing,  that can be harder to confirm than you might think.  A couple things to keep in mind:

Is the oil diluted or cut with chemicals?  
Disingenuous companies have been shown to "stretch" essential oils with other ingredients.  Whether to make them smell better to the average consumer or just to increase profit margins, fillers can include nasties like propylene glycol and synthetic fragrance components.  Look for companies that do external, third party testing to ensure that oils have not been diluted, cut, or adulterated. 

Does the chemical (INCI) name match the common name on the label?
There are a lot of related plants out there and sometimes companies will take a cheaper relative and sell that oil in place of a more costly one.  While the replacement plant likely has a similar scent, it can be problematic because it won't necessarily have the same medicinal properties.  

Lavender is a common culprit for this and is one of the essential oils that is most often falsely labeled and/or adulterated.  Take this example:  The health food store I used to work in sold one of the more expensive and well-thought of essential oil brands on store shelves and said brand offered ten varieties of lavender.  My store only stocked two: "True Lavender" which was real lavender and "Lavender Hybrid" which was lavender's close relative, lavendin.  The two share a similar scent profile and both are great for relaxation, however lavendin does not have the same skin healing properties as lavender.  Lavender is great for healing burns, but lavendin - which contains camphor - can actually aggravate them and make them worse.  Lavendin is, however, a whole lot cheaper.  

The Bottom Line
Essential oils can be wonderful, powerful, healing things, but I think it's so important to make sure you're buying high quality ones.  Whichever oils you decide to use, the main point I want to stress is to DO YOUR RESEARCH.  Not everything on the shelves is honest, so you really need to take it one step further and research beyond what's on the label.  A reputable company with nothing to hide should be able and willing to answer all your questions.

There's a lot of push/pull about specific essential oil brands out there, which is one of the reasons I've mostly refrained from writing about this topic in the past.  I don't need to start a debate over which oils are best, but personally, I choose to use Young Living.  I've used these oils for years now and in pretty much every way imaginable - for aromatherapy, neat (undiluted) and even internally - and I'm very happy with them.  I've gotten a number of emails over the last few months asking for essential oil recommendations, which is why I'm putting it out here publicly.  I started with Young Living purely to get the products for personal use, but as I'm sure many of you already know, it is an MLM company.  If you decide to join, I'd love it if you used my member/sponsor number: 954496.  

Would you be interested in more essential oil-related posts?  Are there any specific topics/questions you'd like to see addressed in upcoming posts?

Rachel's Plan Bee Facial Oil

I reviewed a couple body products from Rachel's Plan Bee in early December, but I realized over the weekend that I'd yet to write about the company's lovely face oil, which I've also been using for the past few months.   

Photo credit
Rachel's Plan Bee describes the Facial Oil* as "a botanical blend of skin loving oils for your face + a happy scent," which I think describes it pretty perfectly.  With apricot kernel, grape seed, safflower, olive squalane, and cranberry seed oils, plus a healthy dose of vitamin E, the oil sinks in beautifully, delivering a great boost of moisture and nutrients to the skin.  The company doesn't make any intense anti-aging claims (refreshing, isn't it?), but I think I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention the high regenerative properties of olive squalane or the sheer volume of antioxidants that cranberry seed oil is packing.  The oil is also beautifully scented with vanilla and orange essential oil and was in fact the inspiration for the company's Body Oil, which launched onto the green beauty scene with quite a bang this past fall.  

I think I made it clear in my review just how much I love the Body Oil, but there are still occasional days when I find the scent a little overpowering, so I was concerned I might have the same problem with the facial oil.  I'm happy to say that I've not had any issues thus far.  The face oil has the same scent, but - to my nose at least - it's a good bit less strong.  I catch whiffs of the body oil on my skin throughout the day, but the scent of the face oil is only something I notice while I'm applying it, which is likely due to both the milder scent and the fact that one uses a lot less oil on the face versus the body.  

The Bottom Line
This is one of those face oils that I think would suit almost anyone.  It smells good and has a great feel - lightweight, but still very moisturizing.  For my basically normal skin, I use 3-4 drops, but you could definitely tailor the amount to suit your skin's needs.  The simple ingredients list has everything you need and no fillers or extra ingredients.  I also love that it's affordably priced at $20 - great for someone just starting out with face oils or the connoisseur looking to further expand their collection.   

P.S. If you feel like jumping on this - or anything else from Rachel's Plan Bee - the company is offering 2 free lip balms with any $20 purchase now through Valentines Day (no coupon code needed).

*Press sample

January Empties / Products I've Used Up

January is often a month of scaling back after the holidays and this year was no different for me and my beauty cabinet .  Last year I took part in #NoBuyJanuary and this year I joined Tamara from Rainbow Feet's Green Survivor Challenge over on Instagram.  I love the group aspect of these challenges!

Since I focused a lot on using things up, I actually got through quite a few items this month.  I'm going to try to keep it short- since I have so many products to talk about - but if you'd like more info, I'm happy to expand on anything in the comments.  

Organic Surge Tropical Bergamot Hand & Nail Cream
I usually love citrus scents, but the smell of this one was a little sharp to my nose.  It was a great hand cream though, and even the scent grew on me after a while.  Very affordable too.  I'd buy it again.

Balanced Guru Calming Masque   [Review]
I only discovered this product towards the end of 2014, but it quickly became one of my favorite masks.  It has a lot of calming ingredients, but is also quite detoxifying.  If you saw my massive green beauty haul earlier this month, you'll know that I've already picked up a replacement.

Andalou Naturals Citrus Verbena Shower Gel
I love some of Andalou's products, but this shower gel was not one of them.  The smell was nice at first, but I got tired of it about halfway through the bottle.  It also left my skin itchy and irritated at times.

SkinnySkinny The Cleanser   [Review]
I didn't have the highest hopes for this castile-based facial cleanser, but I ended up loving it.  It's probably one of the best cleansers I've used to date.  If SkinnySkinny were easier to find in Canada, I likely would have bought a second bottle right away, but due to lack of easy accessibility and high shipping costs, I've moved on to a different cleanser for now.

Northman Grooming Co. Shaving Cream*   [Review]
My only complaint with this shaving cream is the tub packaging, which could be a little cumbersome in the shower.  The actual shaving cream is great: very creamy and hydrating.  I'd especially recommend it in the colder months or for anyone who suffers from shaving-related irritation.  

Kinky Curly Spiral Spritz   [Review]
I've gone through several bottles of this light, non-sticky hair gel and it even made my Best Curly Girl Hair Products of 2014 list.  I've already got another bottle on the go. 

Acure Unscented Cocoa Butter + CoQ10 Body Lotion   [Review]
Another staple.  When I want an unscented body moisturizer, nine times out of ten this is what I reach for.  It rubs in easily, but still moisturizes well.  I stocked up the last time Acure was on sale on iherb, so I already had another tube waiting.  

Earthpaste Spearmint Toothpaste   [Review]
I've been using Earthpaste for a couple years now, but this was my first time trying this specific flavour.  The Spearmint is unique in that it's unsweetened and stronger than Earthpaste's other flavours.  I liked the strong spearmint taste, but I wished it was also sweetened a little.  Without the xylitol, I found it to have a slight bitter taste.   

Weleda Body Lotion (samples)
I enjoyed using these lotions - especially the Sea Buckthorn scent - but I'm not sure I liked them enough to purchase a full size bottle.  

Nonie of Beverly Hills AHA! Body Lotion* (sample)
This isn't the richest, heaviest, most moisturizing lotion I've ever used, but with natural alpha hydroxy acids from fruit, it gently exfoliates and leaves you with extra soft, smooth skin.  Smells lovely too, with Nonie of Beverly Hills' signature sweet lemon scent.  

Dr. Alkaitis Organic Soothing Gel (sample)
One of my best discoveries of 2014, I love using the Soothing Gel as a spot treatment.  It makes a noticeable difference on large blemishes and literally vanishes smaller ones within just a few hours.  I bought another sample for now, but I expect I'll be picking up the full size bottle at some point in the future.  

Derma E Vitalizing Cleanser (sample)
I was excited to try this as it's one of the few Derma E products made without phenoxyethanol.  I didn't realize it at the time, but it does contain fragrance.  It worked fine as a cleanser, but I think it's been discontinued and I  wouldn't purchase it because of the fragrance anyways.

Suki Moisture-Rich Cleansing Lotion (sample)
Another so-so cleanser for me.  I much prefer Suki's Foaming Cleanser.

John Masters Linden Blossom Face Creme Cleanser (sample)
I'm scratching my head trying to remember how I felt about this one.  Clearly not a very memorable product either way. 

Blรปm Naturals Pro Age Daily Cleansing Towelette
I like to carry these individually wrapped towelettes in my purse, but they're not something I use on a day-to-day basis.  The pro-age ones are my favorite of the types I've tried so far.  

Bare English & Co. Vanilla Coconut Lip Balm
I've given Bare English lip balms as gifts but I never actually tried them myself until this fell into my hands this past fall.  I'm not sure why I waited so long!  I love that they're made locally here in Toronto and the formula is excellent too.  I've already picked up a couple other flavors to try.

Young Living Lavender Lip Balm
I love these lip balms too!  They're super smooth and nourishing and last well on the lips without being overly waxy.  The lavender scent is my favorite.

EvanHealy Tea Tree Gel Cleanser (sample)
I've been liking to use a gel cleanser as the second step in a double cleanse routine and EvanHealy's was a nice option.  I don't think I'd buy it - just because I don't need a targeted acne cleanser like this - but it worked well and didn't do anything bad for my skin.  

Hugo Naturals Vanilla Peppermint Soap
I really enjoyed having a festive snowflake shaped soap over the holidays and the peppermint vanilla scent was nice as well.  I'm not rushing to buy more Hugo Naturals soaps immediately, but I certainly would - especially when they come in cute shapes like this!

Pai Kukui & Jojoba Bead Skin Brightening Exfoliator (sample)
I've tried this before, but after seeing several bloggers rave about it, I thought I'd try another sample.  I like how it works, but I'm not crazy about the scent, so I doubt I will ever purchase a full size bottle.

Silk Naturals Abstract Sheer Blush (sample)
I like Silk Natural's Sheer Blush formula a lot.  The blushes blend easily and aren't overly saturated with pigment, so they work well on my ultra fair skin.  The colors also last well on my face throughout the day.  Abstract is a gorgeous light pink with some plum tones - swatched here - that I will definitely be re-ordering soon.  

Burt's Bees Wings of Love Facial Powder (sample)
This is an ancient sample from Burt's Bees' old makeup line (pre-Clorox ownership I think.)  It was a loose, translucent face powder that did nothing for my skin.  I ended up throwing out most of the sample.

I see a lot of other bloggers keep a tally of empties, and I'm going to start one this year too.  I'm curious to see how much stuff I actually get through over the course of a year!  

Skincare: 4
Body/Hair: 7 
Makeup: 0
Skin/Body/Hair Samples:11
Makeup Samples: 2

2015 Total
Skincare: 4
Body/Hair: 7
Makeup: 0
Skin/Body/HairSamples: 11
Makeup Samples: 2

* Press sample
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